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Commander Sleepers

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The last few weeks have been pretty exciting times for Magic: The Gathering players. Johnny Magic was propositioned by a television hottie following his publicized dating debacle, the Innistrad prerelease date is creeping closer, and we watched the old rating system crumble like the Berlin Wall. Not only are we enjoying the previews of cards from the upcoming set, but Commander players are poised to capitalize on the new Planeswalker Points system that will replace the archaic, chess-style model of rating and ranking players.

Some have called the fall of the older system a blessing, while others have predicted the end of Magic as a mental sport. Like most players, I was not in love with the old system, and don’t think this change will be the end of Magic. In fact, I instantly noticed the benefit of the Planeswalker Points system for Commander players. The system generally rewards players for playing Magic. There are competitive and professional points that folks can earn by playing in competitive events like Grand Prixes, Pro Tours, and World Championships, but there are also casual points awarded to players who participate in small store events.

Not only will folks be more heavily encouraged and rewarded for playing Friday Night Magic, but league play and smaller Commander tournaments can be reported to earn Planeswalker Points. I play in a couple of Commander leagues. I would participate in these weekly events anyway, but love the fact that I can bank a few participation points for enjoying casual games of Magic. In the last month, my DCI rating hit 1900. I have been lucky enough to string together some wins and pulled down quite a few FNM Top 8 performances, but will gladly trade in my rating for Planeswalker Points. Currently, my wife and I are both Sorcerers, and I am looking forward to the journey to Archmage.

While Twitter and forums on multiple Magic sites are exploding with the debate over love and hate for the new system, I would encourage Commander players to consider the positive benefits and impact it will have on our format. Playing more Magic is great, and now you stand a chance to increase your Planeswalker status by playing Commander. This seems pretty sweet.

Commander Sleepers

After playing in my Wednesday-evening Commander league at the Dragon Cove (Spring Hill, Florida), I spent some time building a new deck, talking with leaguemates, and trading a few cards. During a trade with a good buddy, we started to debate the value of a few cards from the Commander preconstructed decks that Wizards released in June. I noticed a trend in a couple of trades over the last few weeks. Most folks don’t really know the values of the Commander cards from these boxed sets.

I like to stay on top of these things and am always looking to build and expand my collection, but I think I might have traded away some cards for significantly less than they were worth. In turn, I also traded a player my copy of Torpor Orb for his Scavenging Ooze. Would you make that trade? One card neuters Birthing Pod decks, while the other . . . well, will run you about $18—evidently. I had imagined the cards were roughly equal in value, and both my trade partner and I were happy with the results. However, the Ooze had really gained some retail strength.

In another trade, I shipped two copies of Homeward Path and a Command Tower for a Sword of Feast and Famine. I really value the Sword and thought I had crafted a pretty great deal to obtain a very hot mythic. However, this trade might be considered slightly in favor of my trade partner when you consider the strong value of the Commander lands.

Like many Commander players, I purchased a bunch of these Commander decks and typically trade off the spare cards that I do not use or want. However, I had not really followed the prices of these cards since the release. Before doing some research and writing this article, I would have overvalued Flusterstorm, and vastly undervalued the majority of the hottest cards in the Commander decks. Sol Ring rallied, Homeward Path jumped, and the Legendary creatures in these sets have held strong values. I created a list from CoolStuffInc.com of each card worth a couple of bucks or more. I was surprised that the list was over fifty cards!

Commander Release $$$ Cards
Akroma, Angel of Fury 3.49
Angel of Despair 3.99
Animar, Soul of Elements 3.49
Archangel of Strife 1.99
Aura Shards 1.99
Austere Command 3.99
Avatar of Slaughter 1.99
Avatar of Woe 3.99
Awakening Zone 1.99
Bladewing the Risen 1.99
Brainstorm 1.99
Buried Alive 3.99
Champion's Helm 2.99
Chaos Warp 9.99
Collective Voyage 3.49
Command Tower 3.99
Dominus of Fealty 2.49
Dread Cacodemon 1.99
Edric, Spymaster of Trest 8.99
Eternal Witness 5.49
Fact or Fiction 1.99
Firespout 1.99
Flusterstorm 9.99
Garruk Wildspeaker 5.99
Ghave, Guru of Spores 2.99
Ghostly Prison 2.99
Grave Pact 5.99
Homeward Path 8.99
Hornet Queen 2.99
Hydra Omnivore 3.99
Invigorate 1.99
Kaalia of the Vast 5.99
Karador, Ghost Chieftain 2.99
Lightning Greaves 4.99
Living Death 3.99
Magmatic Force 1.99
Mana-Charged Dragon 3.99
Martyr's Bond 2.99
Memory Erosion 2.99
Minds Aglow 1.99
Mother of Runes 4.99
Nin, the Pain Artist 4.99
Oblivion Stone 3.99
Path to Exile 3.99
Riku of Two Reflections 2.99
Scavenging Ooze 17.99 (sold out)
Simic Sky Swallower 2.49
Skullbriar, the Walking Grave 2.49
Skullclamp 2.99
Sol Ring 7.99
Solemn Simulacrum 11.99
Stranglehold 1.99
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls 3.99
The Mimeoplasm 2.99
Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter 2.99
Wonder 1.99

Wow! These fifty-six Commander cards are selling (or are sold out) on Coolstuffinc.com for around $240. If you opened each of the five preconstructed Commander decks, accounted for five copies of Sol Ring and five copies of Command Tower (ignoring other duplicates), you would be looking at a retail value of around $300. Sure, we’re talking retail values, but we’re also ignoring the other cards. There are over a dozen cards that retail for $0.99 to $1.98, and even more bulk cards that don’t really make the money lists.

Before June, I wrote a couple of articles trying to emphasize the incredible value of these Commander products. When the Commander decks released in June, I did some follow-up and demonstrated the values of each of the newly released decks. If you ordered the cards one by one from CoolStuff, some of the decks racked up prices of $150 or more. Like all new set releases, the fire and excitement cools. The first round of the decks sold out in most locations, but Wizards had a strong plan for a second wave.

While you could barely locate the deck that you wanted the weekend they dropped, now you are likely to see a couple (if not all) hanging at your local game store or occasionally sitting on the shelf of Target or Wal-Mart. The Commander decks have the same sort of “run” as a regular set in Magic. There are special sets that release for one month. I believe box sets like Jace vs. Chandra, Divine vs. Demonic, and the like have this shorter print run. However, the “regular” Magic sets like Worldwake and Innistrad tend to be produced for about three months. The regular sets drop four in a year, and when one dries up, the next is generally around the corner.

The Commander boxed sets were slated for a regular set run. Therefore, they were likely aimed for release in June and would be printed and distributed as new product through August. As we approach the midpoint in September, it is likely that the available supply of the Commander sets will begin to dwindle. Has anyone priced Divine vs. Demonic lately? While they originally opened around $19.99, today you can land a sealed set for around $70 to $115. While not all of the boxed sets make this type of jump, many items become collectable after about one year following the end of the print run.

The better and more desirable the cards in the boxed sets, the more the post-print-run jump. When we look at the print run of the Commander decks, we note that they seem to be very desirable. After the cooling period, you are able to obtain a set of five of the decks for roughly $130 to $150. The retail value of the top cards result in about twice that amount, and we are predicting a drop in continued availability. The collectability of the products and long-term value is driven by demand and supply. It would stand to reason that there is slightly less of a supply of these cards than would be available in a small, regular set. No one has opened these cards to draft; they were used in few Sealed tournaments; and they might be considered a niche product for our Commander market. However, the cards are generally desirable and there is likely long-term demand that will be driven by two factors. If none of these sets are reprinted in the future, this was a one-shot opportunity to acquire cards including Scavenging Ooze, Flusterstorm, Chaos Warp, and new Commander staples like Command Tower and Homeward Path.

Making Moves

The coolest aspect of building a collection is having access to the cards that you want to play. Whether you make a Commander box filled with staples, pack your binder with all of your favorite cards, or simply shove them into your decks as you get them, having the cards to participate in the format is key. I have become a fan of the Commander decks. Before they were released, I noted the exceptional potential value and the way that the decks would reduce the financial barrier to entry into the format for new players. I reworked several of the builds into more competitive or interesting versions and have set aside a few of these decks in my game room for investment.

It would appear that the demand for this product is still solid. I watch these decks sell every time I am in one of my local game stores. As the end of the print run results in limited supply, it makes sense that the value of these decks will increase. The next time you have a chance to snipe one of these decks, you should pull the trigger. They are not only fun and offer you a chance to grow your collection, they are financial sleepers. There are over fifty cards worth more than a few dollars, and a couple that are breaking the $10 barrier. Consider making a move to pick up the remaining Commander decks that you come across in the next couple of months. In a year, you will wish that you had.

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